By Terri Smith –
It’s that time of year again. What time of year is that? I’m glad you asked, because it never feels believable when it arrives, but it is time to order seeds! As I write this I look out my window at the snow-covered trees and the foot or more of that fluffy, white stuff, and planting seeds seems like both a distant memory and a task so far in the future it seems absurd right now.
I know not everyone starts their own seeds. Many of you may just buy seedlings, or, like most people living in the Cariboo, plant everything on the May long weekend, and that is just fine, too. However, if you are interested in growing your own seedlings or want onions that will definitely not contain root maggot, might I suggest ordering now?
Another thing that can happen if you wait too long is some seed companies may run out of your favourite varieties. I have had this happen to me countless times as, even though I’m telling you it’s time to order seeds, I’m never that organized, and I often wait until mid-February to order.
Gasp. I can’t believe I just admitted that. I used to start my onions and leeks in February, but I have found that with my ultra-short season I can’t put them into the ground until mid-end of April anyway, and the extra growth they get from me babying them for an extra month really only gives me a harvest that is a week or two earlier, if that.
But the seed catalogues have arrived and I am eagerly poring over them. I know there are many great seed companies out there. We all find the companies that suit us best. Over the seven years of farming at Road’s End we have ordered from quite a few different companies, but I have now settled into my three favourites.
My first go-to seed company is West Coast Seeds. They have the largest selection of organic, open-pollinated, and heritage varieties I have found yet, nothing in the catalogue is GMO, and the company is as local as I can get. A note about organic seed: why pay more for the same seed grown organically?
Because even though a non-organic seed can produce a perfectly reasonable organic plant, the organic varieties will be hardier if you are growing organically. These seeds have come from plants that haven’t had the help of pesticides and still thrived!
They will outperform their conventional counterparts, and if you are like me and believe we should be dumping fewer pesticides into our groundwater, well, it’s also good to support organic.
My next favourite catalogue is William Dam out of Ontario, and I do get a lot of my larger quantity seeds, like carrots, from this company. It is a bigger company and does have lower prices.
My last catalogue is Johnny’s, an American company, and I usually only order a few very specific seeds from this store. Johnny’s is an employee-owned company and I like that. It also has a great selection of garden tools that until recently we couldn’t find in Canada. I order my storage cabbage seed from Johnny’s as well as that amazing, spicy salad green called, “Scarlet Frills.”
So that’s my list of companies, now what about my favourite seeds? My number one, surprising, all-time favourite cultivar is called, “Hakurai,” and it is that delicious, succulent, white, salad turnip from the WCS catalogue. My favourite early carrots are, “Mokum,” my favourite mid-season carrots are, “Scarlet Nantes,” and my favourite storage carrots are, “Bolero.” My favourite lettuce is called, “Esmeralda,” and the best zucchini ever is the Italian, Heritage variety called, “Romanesco.”
I could go on indefinitely here, but I have seeds to order! Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or just want to talk seeds.
Terri Smith is an organic vegetable farmer in the Cariboo with Road’s End Vegetable Company. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Literature and a diploma in Art.